Many of you may have heard about the recent passing away of Dr. Amir Hossein Aryanpour, the controversial sociologist and lecturer. I was his student in the early years of my university studies. The following is an expression of my grief at his loss.
Born in a traditional family in Tehran on February 27, 1927, he died from lung complications on July 30, 2001. He was a pleasant man with a big smile and a short body. He was once a champion weight lifter. He received a social science degree at the American University in Beirut in 1944, and a philosophy and political science degree from Tehran University in 1948.
After teaching for two years, in 1951 he went to Princeton for a doctorate degree. That was where he was attracted to left-wing ideas. In 1952 at the height of the McCarthyite witch-hunt, he was expelled from the United States and returned to Iran.
From 1953, after the fall of Mossadegh and the democratic movement, Aryanpour was for many years at the center stage of the student movement and the most popular lecturer at Tehran University. The Shah's government worried about his left-wing ideas and in 1969 forced him to teach English to the theology college. But even there he used his classroom to discuss philosophy and sociology.
Finally, Aryanpour was forced to teach at a teacher training school in Narmak, west Tehran. In 1976 he was dismissed from the theology college, and in1980, retired from teaching and went on to compile his Dictionary of Social Sciences at home. In 1994 he was one of the 134 writers who signed a letter protesting against censorship and demanding freedom of expression.
He was a true scholar; a great teacher loved by many of his students and colleagues alike. His work in sociology, psychology, philosophy, and Persian literature, as well as his work in finding Persian equivalents for foreign terms, won the admiration of many in academia. Much of his work in this area is yet to be published.
Aryanpour always tried to promote social change and dialectic materialism. He always believed science was the basis for explaining everything. Thus he was hated by Islamists, whom, ironically, he was forced to teach at the theology collge. His students learned critical thinking and scientific approach to problems. He believed in “kherad geraaei”, or rationalism, and always guided his students toward logical thinking. He taught them to present no case without proof, and to lways search afor the truth.
Aryanpour never took roll call in his classes, but hardly anyone was ever absent. Sometimes we had to stand in his class, as there were no empty chairs. Often students left their engineering classes to attend his class instead. Many of us did the same in the second year of college, even though we no longer had assigned classes with him.
I remember after class he always used to say to us “Rofaghaa (comrades), let's go to the library and get some books to read.” On several occasions he took a few of us in his car to Tehran University, gave us the titles to look for, while he choose several books himself, and then drove us back to the Polytechnic Institute and Tehran Institute of Technology (now Amir Kabir University).
In my first year of college, when learned I had completed the Iran America Society's English courses, he instructed me to get a book in English on the Big Bang Theory — “Afsazneye Afareenesh — translate it, and give a lecture to students. He kindly corrected my translation and helped me find equivalent Persian words for technical terms. For many of us, myself included, this was the first time we had heard of the Big Bang Theory. We were barely 19- years old.
He was an articulate man, very intelligent, and kind to all of his students, friends and colleagues around him. He was our professor in the engineering school, teaching methodology. He sometimes reminded us, sarcastically, that his official position was professor at Daneshkadeye Maaghool va Manghool (later Elahiyat Theological Faculty). I am told that two of his students at this college were current President Khatami and the the late Ayatollah Beheshti.
As one of his students, I am greatly saddened by his death. I have no doubt this feeling is shared by thousands of his Iranian students and friends alike around the world. He changed the direction of our thinking and the lives of many in the past 45 years, and his articles and works will continue to do so in the future.
I just wanted to express my sorrow and share my memories with you. For his physical loss, my condolences go to his family, to all of academia, and to his former students and my fellow classmates wherever they are around the world.